There are two sets of theories available to describe why December 25 was selected as the date of birth of Jesus. The first theory is shaped on the thoughts of Sextus Julius Africanus that the date of the origin of Jesus is same as his death date i.e. March 25. In order to get December 25 add up nine months for Mary’s pregnancy. This is known as the calculation theory. The second theory is shaped on the connection between the Christmas feast and the pagan feast which is celebrated in the admiration of the sun God. This is known as the “history of religions theory.”
L. Duchesne (1889), Thomas Talley (1991) and H. Engberding (1949) proposed the computationist hypothesis. It roots from a custom, which is about the Hebrew patriarchs who were believed to have lived for numerous years. In this practice, it was believed that the patriarchs died on the same date as that of their birthday.
Thus in case of Jesus, if his death date was March 25 and the Annunciation is even obvious on March 25, an entire period of nine months would make out the date of birth to be December 25.
In addition to this a dispute aroused in regard of this theory stated that the conviction that the foundation of the world and spring equinox coincided and thus Jesus the real sun was produced at that time only.
A limitation of this theory is that there exists no apparent explanation about the date of origin of Jesus should be replaced with the date of birth for patriarchs.
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The history of religions theory
H. Usener (1889), Bernard Botte (1932), F.J. Dolger (1925) and H. Lietzmann are the advocates of the history of religions theory. This theory begins from the actuality that December 25 was the winter solstice’s date on the Julian calendar.
In addition to this, there are five more facts that are known to us:
- The pagan worshipers of the Persian secrecy God Mithra established his religious groups in the Rome and rejoiced December 25 as the date of birth of the undefeated sun.
- This religious group’s fame led the ruler Aurelian to declare the Sun God as the major supporter for the Roman Dynasty on December 25, 274 and gave a temple to him in the Martius of campus.
- The ruler Constantine was being transformed to Christianity because he noticed a symbol of cross of Christ in the sky THE Battle of the Milvian Bridge (312).
- At the Council of Nicea (325) main theological conflicts with the Arian deviation that had diluted the religious studies of Jesus were dissolved by the Council Fathers announcing that Jesus the similar element with God the Father.
- From the beginning part of the 3rd century AD numerous of the Christian writers began to use the text of the prophet Malachi 3:20 to Jesus and after this time we locate fathers of the church taking the help of winter solstice as a picture of the origin of Christ.
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These instances definitely set a background in the beginning years of the 4th century in which the appearance of the feast of the origin of Jesus as the actual undefeated sun does not appear ethnically controversial.
A favorable dispute for this theory is that “baptizing” or approximating a pagan or social feast would withdraw people gone from the Mithraic and Roman customs, from the wrong doings of the pagan Roman Saturnalia that is a time of feasting, lightning of candles, gifts giving and even license.
A dispute against it is that though the earlier Christians repeatedly clarify their individuality in resistance to their ethnical surroundings and especially in regard of various other customs and beliefs. However, this dispute may have lost its existence with the transformation of Constantine, which took place before this.
Syncretistic inclinations had also played a major role. In the mid of the 5th century, Pope St Leo was talking to Christians agreed to bow to the rising sun prior to entering the basilica on Christmas day of St Peter. Undoubtedly, the association between the sun and Jesus described in fathers of church were subjected more too state philosophy and ethnical climate of late colonial Rome.
In addition to this there was one more dispute against this is that the death of Constantine took place at his eastern capital Constantinople in 337 that did not rejoiced Christmas until 380s, and therefore we must not underestimate his power on the commencement of the feast.
Whatsoever it may be about its origin, surely the central topic of the nativity celebrations in the Rome is a widespread redeeming feature of a share in the heavenly life of the God, which is accessible, by all the human beings after Jesus was born. This is apparent from the attractive opening prayer of the Christmas group as it was rejoiced in the Roman Liturgy of the 5th century.
The prayer rejoices the sacred state of mind of Jesus birth. In the baby at Bethlehem, the God shares with us our human state while we can share his sacred state. Few of the fathers of the church saw the secrecy behind the birth as a holy wedding banquet, bringing together spirituality permanently with the humanity.
Feast Development in North Africa and the West
A lecture of Optatus of Mileve provides facts of real nativity festivity there in the 360s in Numidia, North Africa. Optatus took the help of gospel text of Herod’s mass murder of the innocents to cheer the people to restrict the harassment of the ruler Julian.
The feast was referred in Milan in the era of St Ambrose who wrote various hymns with nativity issues. Pope St Siricius sent a letter to a bishop of Tarragona, Spain named Himerius displays that Christmas was rejoiced by, 384 in the Spain.
Development in the East
Until the late forth century the Christmas celebrations on December 25 was not developed in the East. The oldest proof is from a lecture given by St Basil (329-379) [PG 36:311-334]. A Christmas lecture in Constantinople was been held by Gregory of Nazianzus in 379 or 380. He even called himself the creator of the feast [PG 36:349].
Even before this time, there existed a feast of the heavenly expression of Christ on January 6 in the East. This marked the celebration of baptism of Jesus in the Jordan. This appears to have its existence from the Egypt.
As in the Egyptian calendar the celebrations of the Sun God and winter solstice were noticed on that particular date, thus that date may even been given in regard to a pagan feast. On the night before, the pagans of Alexandria celebrated the origin of their God Aeon, apparently he was born of a virgin. Pagans are of a view that on this particular night the river water especially that of the Nile obtain magical powers and converts to wine. These sorts of values have encouraged the adding up of themes of the wonder of Cana, the growth of the loaves and the origin of Jesus.
In Syria, the celebrations means of the origin, the Mage and the baptism. The Apostolic Constitutions stopped work on January 6 because of the appearance of the religious studies of Christ at his sprinkling.
In 386, the subsistence of this baptism celebration in the East may be the reason behind why St. John Chrysostom faced problems in preaching in Antioch resisting his worshippers to acknowledge the origin feast on December 25. This perhaps appeared as an unfamiliar and imported feast to them. John refused such fake disputes and said that everyone is aware of the fact that the actual date of birth of Christ has always been December 25 that is declared in the census proceedings from the era of Caesar Augustus. It is not correct completely. In addition to this, he further disputed from the calculations relevant date of birth and dates of formation o Jesus Christ and John the Baptist.
We are aware of the fact that origin feast was held in Alexandria on December 25, 432 and from that day we have been told that, Paul of Emesa delivered a nativity lecture in the existence of St Cyril.
Until the mid of the seventh century, the origin of Christ was rejoiced on January 6 in Jerusalem when December 25 was been accepted. Only the Armenians did not accepted December 25 even to this date.
After December 25 was celebrated as Christmas in the left out part of East, the sprinkling of Christ was rejoiced on Epiphany on January 6 there. However, in the West, Epiphany was rejoiced as a day on which Magi visited the baby Jesus Christ.
Russia, Serbia, Greece and Mount Athos
Excitingly in this association, also there exists the reality the January 7 was rejoiced as Christmas in Russia, Serbia and in various others conventional Orthodox strongholds such as the monastery in Greece on Mount Athos. The motive for this is that those kindling of Orthodoxy did not give acceptance to the Georgian changes of 1683. It forms the pedestal of the calendars in west and still has a grip over the Julian calendar. The Julian calendar is thirteen days back the Georgian calendar.
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History of Christmas (December 25) in Europe and America
By the premature middle Ages, Christmas had come to spot the beginning of the calendar year and was rejoiced as a public holiday in entire Europe. On the 800th Christmas day, Charlemagne was the enthroned as the ruler of the western Christian dynasty by Pope Leo III at the 3rd Christmas gathering in St Peter’s Basilica.
Most of the myths, tradition and prodigy grew up approximating the celebrations. People had a point of view that at the time of Christmas all creations closed, the devil lost all his control and even the plants and the animals bowed down in respect of the Savior. Secrecy drama shaped on Luke 2 including the dialogue with the urbanized shepherds out of the entire gathering.
In the parts of Europe where the modification took place, the celebrations of Christmas were even quieter. Through the Puritan period awaiting 1660 was illegal in England. In the Northern America region especially Spanish and French regions, the Christmas celebrations were joyful and full of colors and lights. The New England due to the existence of the Puritan atmosphere did not rejoiced Christmas until the arrival of German and Irish immigrants brought an affluence of the Christmas traditions like the Christmas tree, joyful lights and the exciting celebrations of the festival.
The approximation of the celebrations of the Sun God at the solstice of winter is now being regarded as the more certain theory for the basis of the Christmas celebration on December
The significance and the nature it provides to the festival is to display the spirituality of Christ and the savior objective for all the living beings of the secrecy that God has taken birth on the earth in form of a human being.